Authentic Canadian Inuit - Eskimo Art, First Nations Art & Unique Canadian Giftware

INUIT ART IN THE KITIKMEOT REGION

 

REGIONAL STYLES AND FORMS

Although Inuit art - Eskimo art may appear to be homogenous to the untrained eye, there is great diversity in stone and style from region to region.

 

OVERVIEW

Canada’s Inuit population (about 60.000) live in 30 isolated communities across Canada's north – stretching from the Northwest Territories in the West, across the Central Arctic Region of Nunavut to the provinces of Quebec and Labrador in the East.

 

Differences in geology, flora and fauna between the various communities, has resulted in distinctively different regional styles and forms, ranging from naturalism or decorative stylization to minimal abstraction and from brutal expressionism to whimsical surrealism. The personal styles of individual artists are readily identifiable by avid collectors and patrons of Inuit art Regional Styles

 

Nunavut is comprised of three regions;

Kitikmeot– Central Arctic

Baffin -Eastern Arctic

Kivalliq

 

Gallery Canada specializes in Inuit art from the Kitikmeot region.  

map showing Inuit Art region of Kitikmeot

click for larger map of Kitikmeot region 

 

Kitikmeot Region – Central Arctic Inuit Art

The Kitikmeot region is 457,209 square km and includes the southern and eastern parts of Victoria Island with the adjacent part of the mainland as far as the Boothia Peninsula, together with King William Island and the southern portion of Prince of Wales Island. Approx. 4,800 live in the Kitikmeot region in seven hamlets: Bathurst Inlet, Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay), Kugluktuk (Coppermine), Taloyoak and Omingmaktok (Bay Chimo).

The major hamlets creating stone carvings are Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven.

 

Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine) 

Dolomite, a hard, white stone found on the islands in the Coronation Gulf is the primary carving medium for Kugluktuk carvers. Darker stones from river embankments are sometimes used to create accessorial pieces, as are musk ox horn, walrus teeth, weathered whale bone and caribou antlers. “White Stone” Inuit art is very difficult to acquire, primarily because of the significant geographic distance between this region and the major art markets in the south i.e. Toronto and Montreal. Gallery Canada exclusively features Inuit art - Eskimo art from the Kitikmeot region.

 

The predominant sculpture style from this region is life-like realism. Compositions of polar bears, caribou, walrus and musk-ox are depicted accurately with much attention to detail and are usually highly polished. Dioramas (little scenes with many pieces) of traditional life - igloo scenes, dog sleds, hunting or camping scenes -are quite popular.

Inuit - Eskimo art Specialties of this area include:

Musk-ox horn bird carving

Igloo stone carving with removable lids; detailed scenes inside

Drum dancer carving in traditional dress

Dioramas - depictions of traditional camp life

Stone face Inuit - Eskimo dolls

Hunter on Kayak with catch stone carving

 

Taloyoak (formerly Spence Bay)

Taloyoak first became famous for its whalebone sculptures, which were large and rather fantastic in conception. The community style was dominated quickly by the work of one man, Karoo Ashevak, whose combination of the surreal and the whimsical produced powerfully haunting, yet amusing masterpieces. Some aspects of his style have been appropriated by other artists, but the switch to stone as the main carving material and the rise of new talents have led to more varied approaches.

 

Gjoa Haven.

The stone carvings of Gjoa Haven are, to a certain extent, influenced by the Taloyoak style.  This can be seen in the distortion and expressionism of human and spirit faces and bodies, and in the combination of different media such as stone, whalebone, ivory and musk-ox horn.  For some time, Gjoa Haven carvers worked with an imported translucent green stone but they now carve with the local, harder dark green and black stone.

 

Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay)

Kugaaruk Inuit art is best known for its ivory miniatures, which were for many years, encouraged by local missionaries. Small delicate works in ivory and antler, as well as stone carvings, are still produced today.

 

Baffin Region –Eastern Arctic.

The Baffin region includes the communities which made Inuit art famous: Cape Dorset, Lake Harbor, and Iqaluit. Serpentine, a hard stone with a composition similar to jade, ranging in color from light green to brown to black is the stone most used in this region. Most Inuit Art Galleries carry carvings from this area. The sculptural style is strongly stylized. There is often a portrayal of dramatic and emotionally charged shamanic or mythological images. Bears, caribou and muskox, are depicted realistically, but often in unusual poses with great exaggeration. Sculptures have soft, undulating outlines and are brilliantly polished.

 

Kivalliq Region.

Baker Lake is the most famous community in this region for Inuit Art. This area (northwest of the Hudson Bay) is filled with a very hard and dense volcanic stone known as basalt (prior to the glacier age this area was mountainous). Sculptural styles range from crude, primitive and simple with few details to strict naturalism. Additionally, the stone is not highly polished -- the artists preferring a dull and rough effect. Predominant subject themes are family/maternal scenes, muskox and spiritual themes, especially that of transformation. There is less art being created in this region and hence it is not always available in the galleries.

 

INUIT ART CARVINGS - MATERIALS AND METHODS

In most communities (other than Cape Dorset, where there are many quarries of serpentine stone) raw materials suitable for carving, are in short supply. Artists must travel great distances overland or by boat to get their stone.

 

Extracting the stone is very dangerous and physically demanding work. Kugluktuk carvers can only get their stone in the two summer months, when they can take a boat out on the Arctic Ocean. They then must scale an Island cliff or descend a riverbank to locate a suitable piece for carving. Using spikes, crow bars and drills, they pry off whatever chunk they can and then transport it back to their house work area or carving shed by boat and ATV.

 

The carver looks at the shape, coloration and composition of the stone (looking for mineral deposits) and determines what object he will sculpt. The necessary skills, perfected in the fashioning of traditional implements, have been passed down through generations of Inuit.  Most sculptures are produced today using a combination of hand and power tools. Saws, axes and adzes, hammers and chisels are used for the initial roughing out stages of a carving. Files, rasps, steel wool and sandpaper are used for fine work. Most artists finish their work by wet sanding, at least four to six times to get a good polished finish. Penknives and nails are used for detailed incising.

 
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